CAPE MAY — The Nature Conservancy held a Monarch Mania Community Event at the Garrett Family Preserve on Friday and cut the ribbon for a new butterfly sculpture by Brazilian artist Rubem Robierb.
“Rubem Robierb’s monarch-inspired butterfly sculpture will be a jewel in the crown of this magnificent reserve and will offer people another way to contemplate and engage with nature,” said Barbara Brummer, State Director of Nature Conservancy. “Plus, it’s a great photo opp.”
The permanent sculpture, titled “Dream Machine Monarch”, has an interactive feature that allows viewers to stand between the monarch butterfly’s wings to take photos and celebrate the transformative power of nature.
This is not Robierb’s first monarch sculpture, as he created “Dream” in 2018. His work has been the subject of temporary exhibitions around the world, including in New York, Miami, Paris and Toronto.
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Robierb’s inspiration comes from his belief that the monarch butterfly symbolizes belief in your dreams.
“I think, for me, butterflies mean transformation and evolution, and it’s a sculpture that people can relate to,” Robierb said. “It’s nice to see people from different backgrounds come here to the Nature Conservancy and do the same thing. They think about their dream, stand between the scenes, take a picture.
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In addition to attracting the attention of visitors, the sculpture highlights the importance of pollinators and the crucial role of the state in the migration of monarchs.
Brummer said the butterflies use this habitat as a stopover site during migration.
“They fly to Mexico during the winter, and that’s why it’s important for us to maintain that habitat,” Brummer said. “They need to be able to make this trip, so they need to stock up on nectars to feed themselves.”
Brummer added that since butterflies actively pollinate, they allow flowers and other things in the habitat to be pollinated.
Along with the groundbreaking ceremony, many activities were held to entertain families, including butterfly face painting and crafts.
In the mid-1990s, the Nature Conservancy moved to protect land that was originally known as Cape Island Creek Preserve and prevented a plan that would have seen 24 homes developed there.
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The organization then received funding in 2010 from the family of Jim Garrett, a former illustrator for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Besides having a love for art, Garrett had a love for nature and brought his family to Cape May on weekends to enjoy the outdoors.
Once they received the funds, the organization used them to add several amenities, including a picnic pavilion and bird blind, and to improve the more than 4 miles of trails.
The preserve was renamed the Garrett Family Preserve in 2013 and now also features artistic elements that Brummer wanted to make sure they incorporated.
“We have three adjustable art easels so people can come here and draw or paint,” Brummer said. “Then one of our trails is called the Braille trail and for the visually impaired they have a way to experience nature. They are able to hear things, and the trail has different stations that are in Braille.
The unveiling of the sculpture came a day after the International Union for Conservation of Nature added the migratory monarch butterfly to its Red List of Threatened Species and classified them as endangered.
The union estimates that the native monarch butterfly population has declined by 22% to 72% in recent years and that the western population has declined by more than 90% between 1980 and last year, putting them at risk extinction high.
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Upon hearing the news, “Good Morning America” meteorologist Sam Champion, who was among those present, stressed the importance of saving them.
“I feel like we all take monarchs for granted and never really thought about protecting them when you see hundreds of them swarming around you in a field,” Champion said. “It’s tragic that the numbers are going down, and we want to see our kids and grandkids experience catching them and running with them across a field.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact John O’Connor [email protected]